Never in all my years as a Cambridge United fan have I felt like that at the Abbey. We’ve seen a lot of rubbish here over the years, but no matter how gutless the performance or terrible the defeat, I’ve never felt ashamed to support my club. That changed last night, as a minority of knuckle-headed U’s “fans” (and we use that word very loosely) dragged our club’s great reputation into the gutter.
Let’s make it clear. Booing taking the knee is racist. There’s no grey area around this with us. Whatever poundshop politics you try and hide it behind, footballers taking the knee is not some kind of Marxist statement, or a call to destroy outdated monuments, defund the police force, or whatever else you try to justify your racism with. Taking the knee is a protest against racism and discrimination. Pure and simple. It’s sad we’re even having to have this conversation in 2020, but here we are.
We know we’re not going to educate everyone, but if you were one of those who booed us taking the knee last night, look at the reaction from the players as you did it. Listen to the reaction from Mark Bonner, who is disgusted with your actions. Watch Ian Mather on Sky Sports News this morning. Think about all the great black players who’ve represented us in the past; Batson, Dublin, Benjamin, Wilson, Ikpeazu, every one of them gave their all for this club. If you’re not going to support our players – whatever their skin colour, political affiliation, sexuality or anything – then don’t come to the Abbey anymore. We don’t need you.
Everything the club has done over the summer since the Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in positive news coverage. The Here For U’s campaign, supporting elderly and lonely fans and being a supportive ear for those suffering with mental health issues. Being the first club to welcome fans back to professional football in a safe and well-organised manner. Scoring tonnes of goals. All that positivity has been undone.
Luckily, most U’s fans are decent people. The few (but sadly obvious) booers were quickly drowned out by loud applause. But one is one too many. The damage had been done. Some of the racists were shouted down, but they shouldn’t feel comfortable being able to express racist opinions in public in the first place. That’s an issue with wider society and a government that enables it rather than Cambridge United. We’ll continue to root these bastards out and make them feel uncomfortable.
Anyway, to the game. Bonner stuck with Burton in goal and Taylor in midfield and partnered Mullin up front with Knibbs. Dunk was replaced with El Mizouni, and Cundy and Darling were trusted together in defence. So far, so different.
United started well with Mullin testing the keeper inside 20 seconds, but it took a while for the first shots to make their way on target. Late in the half Jack Iredale hit the bar from a 30-yard bomb, and it took a wonder save from Dean Gerken to deny Harry Darling right on the halftime whistle.
Things improved in the second half, and when Luke Hannant placed a free kick just in front of a diving Paul Mullin, there was only going to be one outcome – goal number 17 for the Scouse hitman. Shortly after, Harvey Knibbs showed great technique to run into the box and play a simple cross over to – yep, you guessed it – Paul Mullin, for his eighteenth of the season. Eighteen goals and it’s not even Christmas. Bloody hell. The U’s two goal cushion didn’t last long though, as a Harry Darling challenge in the box resulted in a Colchester penalty being awarded and duly converted. A very frustrating goal to give away, but we always make it hard for ourselves, it seems.
From here on it was all U’s as we marshalled the game and prevented Colchester from testing Burton in any meaningful way, even after they bought on five fresh faces (a first at the Abbey?). Arguably, aside from conceding a very soft and avoidable second goal, the improvement in game management when protecting a narrow lead was the most encouraging thing about the performance. Paul Mullin went off late after a number of heavy challenges, fingers crossed that was precautionary rather than him suffering a knock, but at least Joe Ironside was deemed fit enough to get a few minutes under his belt.
So, a good result overall, and one that was much needed. Bonner got his tactics spot on, and we looked back to our lively best. It’s just a shame it was ruined by a few dickheads.
Man of the Match: I don’t think there was a blade of grass that Harvey Knibbs didn’t cover on that pitch, and he was instrumental in setting up the second goal. Paul Mullin took his tally to 18 for the season, and Digby was at his usual best, encouraging the U’s every minute. But the award has to go to every decent U’s fan who shouted down or drowned out the racists at the start of the game. We hope we never have to hear that again.
Soundtrack of the Match: Dave – Black